World Heritage UK has now completed its response to ‘Planning for the Future’, the government’s consultation on planning reform in England, and commented on its potential effects on World Heritage Sites. You can read the response in full HERE
The World Heritage UK annual conference for 2018 is now a happy memory with much learned, experiences and knowledge shared, networks renewed and new friendships forged over two days in October. The historic Tower of London, in the shadows of its neighbouring 21st century high rise glass skyscrapers, was the perfect place to discuss the ‘setting’ of the UK’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites and our thanks go to Historic Royal Palaces for hosting the event and providing some memorable behind-the-scenes tours.
The conference attracted over a hundred participants, including Michael Ellis, the Under Secretary of State and his team from the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), colleagues from Historic England and the heritage agencies of the devolved nations (who also provided country overview presentations), university academics, heritage consultancy professionals, representatives of most of the UK’s 31 World Heritage Sites, delegates from Bermuda, Germany, Malta and a delegation from the China Academy of Urban Planning Design.
The Minister’s words were very supportive of the work of World Heritage UK and he re-stated the Government’s commitment to heritage protection. This backing will be important when the UK World Heritage Site Review, being carried out by World Heritage UK President, Chris Blandford, is published in 2019, and a summary of progress on this review work formed part of the busy conference programme.
Delegates also heard fascinating insights into case studies where the settings of World Heritage Sites were being challenged, in particular by tall buildings at the Tower of London, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and in Liverpool, by road development at Stonehenge, nationally significant infrastructure projects and changes in agricultural policy in the English Lake District and a variety of issues in the Cornish Mining World Heritage Site, including wind turbines, industrial and housing developments.
There were interactive sessions too, with a Question Time style panel and the popular 5- minute ‘elevator pitches’ which provided short but insightful contributions that were received well by an enthused audience.
As usual the conference’s additional activities were epic, including a wide range of short behind-the-scenes tours both at the Tower of London and at the Maritime Greenwich World Heritage Sites, a speedy clipper trip on the River Thames and a jolly conference dinner at the Old Brewery in Greenwich.
Feedback from delegates has been 100% positive on the overall experience of the conference via the 39% of feedback forms received. Speaker’s presentations and other arisings from the event will be uploaded to the World Heritage UK website in due course.
We are already planning and looking forward to next year’s conference which will be hosted in Llangollen by the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and Canal World Heritage Site in North Wales. In the meantime, the next event will be a technical workshop on ‘Education in World Heritage Sites’ which will take place at Big Pit, Blaenavon on 19th and 20th February 2019
Do sign up to this blog to receive further updates on World Heritage UK activity www.worldheritageuk.org/blog
Photo credits: Sam Rose
Thanks to the generous support of these sponsors, World Heritage UK is able to keep the costs of delegate’s attendance affordable at its latest conference ‘Setting the Scene for World Heritage’, at the Tower of London, 15th and 16th October 2018. This is the 4th annual conference of the charity organisation and it promises to be the most compelling yet, not just for the prestigious venue in the city of London but also for the controversial nature of its subject matter. Development in and around World Heritage Sites is often in the news and here will be discussed such topical places as Stonehenge and its road issues, plans affecting the sites in Liverpool and London with tall buildings and other factors, plus many more examples from around the UK and its Overseas Territories. The event is already attracting international interest so best secure your tickets soon to avoid disappointment. You can register for the conference here
World Heritage UK is pleased to announce that registration is now open for its 4th Annual Conference, ‘Setting the Scene for World Heritage’, taking place at the Tower of London UNESCO World Heritage Site on the 15th and 16th October 2018. Please note the change of date from previous announcements, made to accommodate the very best available facilities at this prestigious venue.
The link to the registration webpage is https://www.eventbrite.com/e/setting-the-scene-for-world-heritage-tickets-46877370477?
UNESCO World Heritage Sites are the historic wonders of the world and the jewels in the crown of any nation. The United Kingdom is blessed with 31 of them and each year World Heritage UK celebrates these gems with a conference. The theme for this year’s event will be ‘Setting the Scene for World Heritage’.
Many of our World Heritage Sites are facing management issues, not only from within their boundaries, but from external pressures beyond, which can be hard to control. Here, delegates will look at the setting in which a World Heritage Site exists, issues with buffer zones and examining how best to deal with Outstanding Universal Value in the margins.
We will be looking in detail at controversial urban examples from Liverpool, Edinburgh and London, but will also examine contentious cultural landscapes such as Stonehenge, natural World Heritage Sites and those with issues on the coast.
The Minister for the Arts, Heritage and Tourism, Michael Ellis MP, has accepted our invitation to speak at the conference and he will be joined by Colonel Richard Harrold, Director of the Tower Group, Simon Hickman from Historic England, urban designer Pete Swift from Planit IE and Rob Burns from Urban Design and Heritage as confirmed speakers so far.
The conference will be delivered in association with Historic Royal Palaces and with support from Historic England and Border Archaeology. We expect to continue the success of previous years with an exciting programme of speakers and side events – perhaps an evening boat trip on the River Thames and behind-the-scenes tour at the Tower of London. More detail on these to follow.
There are only 150 tickets available for this conference, including a small allocation at a reduced rate for students and Voting Members of World Heritage UK. You are advised to book early to avoid disappointment.
But Liverpool Maritime City remains on the “Sites in Danger” list. This is one outcome of the 42nd session of the World Heritage Committee held in Bahrain. You can read more on this in articles written for Place North West here and for the Liverpool Echo here. World Heritage UK’s position on this issue can be found in its recent press release.
The matter of the ‘setting’ of a number of the UK’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites will be comprehensively discussed at World Heritage UK’s 4th Annual Conference in September, this year to be held at the Tower of London. Registration details for this major event will be available shortly.
WORLD HERITAGE UK’S RESPONSE TO DRAFT REVISED NATIONAL PLANNING FRAMEWORK FOR ENGLAND
The Government’s planning policies for England are set out in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). The Government has recently announced its intention to revise the Framework and has consulted on a draft revision. World Heritage UK (WH:UK) responded to the consultation.
As a State Party to the World Heritage Convention, the United Kingdom is required to protect, preserve, present and transmit to future generations its World Heritage Sites. It does this primarily through its planning systems. In the last 18 months, WH:UK has been working to suggest how the UK’s planning systems could be improved further to meet these responsibilities. It based its response to the Draft Revised National Planning Policy Framework largely on this work.
In its response, WH:UK pointed out that England’s World Heritage Sites include a wide range of historic monuments and past industry, landscapes, townscapes, and natural and ecological features. Therefore they will be affected by many of the policies in the NPPF. They cannot be treated as a single homogenous entity.
The full text of WH:UK’s response can be found under Correspondence and Consultations on its website Response to draft NPPF May 18 – resubmission final.
The key points in WH:UK’s response are:
- Recognition. WH:UK welcomes the recognition given to the protection of World Heritage Sites in various places in the Draft Revised NPPF. It urges that, in due course, such protection should be enshrined in primary legislation.
- Development Plans. WHUK strongly disagrees with the proposed changes to the nature of the “development plan”. The Draft Revised NPPF states that, while local planning authorities will be obliged to produce a plan that addresses the strategic priorities for their area, there would be no obligation on them to produce more detailed policies in a Local Plan. However Local Plans contain the very policies that currently protect, preserve and help present World Heritage Sites. They cover issues such as good design, the type of development that is or is not acceptable at or adjacent to World Heritage Sites, the protection of Sites’ settings and/ro buffer zones and the promotion of conservation. It cannot be assumed that local authorities will voluntarily produce local plans. If they do not, this would severely weaken the effectiveness of the planning system in helping to deliver the State Party’s obligations on World Heritage Sites.
- Pre-application engagement. WH:UK welcomes the continuing support for pre-application engagement. It has encouraged its members to be more actively involved in decision-making processes and recognises the value of early dialogue.
- Economic value of World Heritage Sites. WH:UK suggested that the NPPF should recognise the economic value of World Heritage Sites both locally and nationally.
- Good design. WH:UK strongly supports the encouragement of good design. It does not agree that it would be acceptable for increased densities to overrule local character and history, including the surrounding built environment and landscape setting. Such an approach could threaten the Outstanding Universal Value of a World Heritage Site or its setting and/or buffer zone, all as interpreted by policies in the respective local plan or plans.
- Green Belt. Similarly, while WH:UK understands the need to make best use of urban land and to protect the Green Belt, it is important to appreciate that this policy approach can threaten the Outstanding Universal Value and/or setting/buffer zone of some World Heritage Sites by increasing development pressures within urban areas. This is a question of priorities, which the Revised Draft NPPF does not resolve. Instead it states that development in Green Belts may be approved in “very special circumstances” while “Substantial harm or loss of …World Heritage Sites should be wholly exceptional.” WH:UK believes that, given their worldwide importance, World Heritage Sites should take precedence over Green Belts, and therefore there may be circumstances where it would be appropriate to review Green Belt boundaries to relieve development pressures at or adjacent to World Heritage Sites.
- Natural World Heritage Sites. WH:UK is seriously disappointed that the chapter on conserving and enhancing the natural environment does not recognise or set out policies for England’s natural World Heritage Site (the Dorset and East Devon Coast) or any such sites that may be inscribed in the future. The existence of such sites is recognised only in a footnote in the chapter on conserving and enhancing the historic environment, and then no indication is given as to whether the policies applicable to World Heritage Sites in that chapter apply to natural sites. Nevertheless, WH:UK warmly welcomes the new reference in the first paragraph of that chapter to World Heritage Sites, which provides a clear signal in respect of the Sites’ importance.
- Heritage Impact Assessments. WH:UK strongly encourages the use of Heritage Impact Assessments to help local planning authorities determine development proposals, and considers these should be mentioned in the NPPF.
- Development within World Heritage Sites. WH:UK supports of the proposed retention of the requirement on local authorities to “look for opportunities for new development within World Heritage Sites…to enhance or better reveal their significance;” while recognizing that not all elements of a World Heritage Site will necessarily contribute to its significance.
- Minerals development. World Heritage UK welcomes the continued protection of World Heritage Sites through the provision of landbanks of non-energy minerals from outside these areas as far as is practical. However that protection should also be applied to areas that form part of the setting and /or the buffer zone of Sites, as interpreted by policies in the respective local plan or plans. Also the text addressing the issues on oil, gas and coal exploration and extraction is very weak in relation to heritage issues. In this respect, WH:UK advocates a similar approach as for non-energy minerals.
Author credit: Donald Gobbett, World Heritage UK Board Member
Liverpool’s World Heritage Site has been on the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites ‘in danger’ since 2012. UNESCO’s primary concern has centred on the tall buildings in the ‘Liverpool Waters’ development proposal, put forward by Peel Holdings, which was given outline planning permission in 2012. The perceived negative impact of these proposed tall buildings was on long distance views of the Liverpool skyline from the other bank of the Mersey. Of particular concern, it appears, were the tall buildings proposed for the former Clarence Dock site, which is within the World Heritage Site buffer zone.
World Heritage UK, the body representing all 31 UK World Heritage Sites, is aware that in response to UNESCO’s concerns, Liverpool City Council and Peel Holdings have together recently taken three positive initiatives to minimise the risk of Liverpool losing World Heritage Status and to ultimately take it off the ‘endangered’ list. These include a new high level task force to raise the profile of the World Heritage Site and address the concerns raised by UNESCO; a ‘Desired State of Conservation Report’ to set out their view of the city’s World Heritage status as it stands; and a review of the master plan for the Liverpool Waters area, where in fact no new development has actually taken place since outline permission was granted in 2012.
From its national perspective, World Heritage UK warmly welcomes all these initiatives and believes that they signal a genuine change of mood in Liverpool. On behalf of all of the UK’s World Heritage Sites, we ask UNESCO to open a process of constructive dialogue with the UK Government and Liverpool’s stakeholders, in the hope that this will lead to a change in the position they have previously taken on Liverpool’s World Heritage Site. We further hope that, as the ‘State Party’, the Government will fully engage with the process, thus enabling then to fulfil their international obligations and responsibilities under the World Heritage Convention for the protection and enhancement of the outstanding universal value of all the UK’s World Heritage Sites, not least Liverpool.
As Liverpool’s ‘Desired State of Conservation Report’ notes, there has been spectacular progress in restoring Liverpool’s historic buildings, in the World Heritage Site and beyond. The number of heritage ‘buildings at risk’ has been reduced to only 2.75% of the building stock – far below the UK national average. The restoration of the once derelict Stanley Dock for a new hotel and residential accommodation is a shining example of achievement and work in progress.
World Heritage UK has been briefed on the initial work on Peel’s revised masterplan for Liverpool Waters.
Chris Blandford, World Heritage UK President, said: ‘Whilst the revised plan is still at an early stage, we believe that it has the potential to deliver a far more coherent, sensitive and appropriate development form, one which better respects the Site’s outstanding universal value, and is better integrated with Stanley Dock and the adjacent Ten Streets regeneration area’.
Sam Rose, World Heritage UK Chair, said: ‘Cities grow and change, as they always have done, and there will always be conflicts and tensions in the protection of the outstanding universal value of urban World Heritage Sites. We see no situation that is not resolvable with early and constructive dialogue, and we encourage that now in the case of Liverpool. It would be a big loss for the outstanding heritage of the UK, and for the people and businesses of Liverpool if this iconic city was to lose its deserved global status’.
The UK has six World Heritage Sites that fall into the ‘cities’ theme, the largest and most complex three being Bath, Edinburgh and Liverpool.
World Heritage UK’s Chair and President have met with John Glen, the Under Secretary of State for the Arts, Heritage and Tourism at Whitehall in London. Sam Rose and Chris Blandford introduced the Minister to the goals of World Heritage UK and a range of issues were discussed. One of the significant outcomes was an invitation to meet with a senior representative of Visit Britain, a meeting which will take place next week.
Seen here with one of Visit Britain’s ‘GREAT Britain’ campaign posters, the UK’s 31 globally recognised UNESCO World Heritage Sites should fit nicely into this theme.
Communicating World Heritage Conference
7-10 October 2017
Enginuity, Ironbridge Gorge World Heritage Site, UK
Bookings close on 29th September!
There are just a few weeks left to book for the eagerly anticipated Communicating World Heritage Conference which will take place at the Ironbridge Gorge World Heritage Site from 7 to 10 October 2017. Tickets for the conference, and accommodation close to the venue, are being booked up quickly so don’t miss your chance to join a growing group of professionals, academics and practitioners to explore the many ways of communicating World Heritage to a variety of audiences, and discuss the latest research and global policy in relation to key themes such as World Heritage tourism, communities, education and specialist groups.
With conference tickets and local accommodation selling quickly, it’s best to book early. Take a look at the programme on our website to find out more about the speakers and sessions. Of course, within the programme there will be plenty of opportunity to network with colleagues, enjoy informal drinks, conference dinner and walking tours to be announced.
We are delighted to be welcoming such a diverse and exciting group of speakers from organisations such as UNESCO, Historic England and the Heritage Alliance, as well as leading academics from around the world. Their specialist knowledge and expertise will provide a unique cross-disciplinary perspective on the communication of World Heritage, and a range of interesting talking points for colleagues throughout the conference.
Our full programme is available on the conference website, and a few of the many highlights over the four days include:
Michael Di Giovine, Assistant Professor of Anthropology at West Chester University of Pennsylvania. Professor Di Giovani will present “Communicating Sustainability through World Heritage Tourism,” examining the ways in which world heritage practitioners can engage with tourism to communicate sustainability values to a diversity of audiences. (Saturday 7th October).
Dr. Sophia Labadi, Senior Lecturer and co-Director of the Centre for Heritage at the University of Kent (UK). Dr Labadi will present the paper “For Everyone? Communicating World Heritage values and Stake Holders.” This presentation will explore how the World Heritage terminology is difficult to understand, even for specialists, making it even more difficult to communicate to the public. There will be a focus on how communities are increasingly associating World Heritage with exclusions and how these communities have acted upon these exclusionary trends. Finally, Dr Labadi will examine the approaches that aim to bring about solutions to these issues. (Sunday 8th October)
Andrew Stokes, England Director for Visit England will join the join the ‘Heritage Leaders’ session to present the latest information on the value of World Heritage to the tourism market and how this can be communicated. (Monday 9th October).
Mr Bo Jiang, Vice President of ICOMOS-China and Mr Yimeng Zhang, Great Wall Protection Project at the China Academy of Cultural Heritage, will be giving presentations about two icons of World Heritage, the Silk Road and the Great Wall of China. This is a rare opportunity to hear speakers from this country on their specialist subjects and will provide great insight into communicating World Heritage with the wider world. (Tuesday 10th October).
To book your place, please visit www.communicatingworldheritage.wordpress.com/tickets